Plastics Color Corp. (PCC; Calumet City, IL) has expanded its line polylactic acid (PLA) compounds, hoping to help the bioplastic expand into new applications. "The market has struggled with PLA's place," explained Timothy Workman, PCC's business development manager, noting that PLA's processing and finished-product quirks have at times hamstrung its broader acceptance.
Called SoluPLAs, PCC's range launched at MD&M West with six different grades and each one offering a different functionality, including impact modification, denested, mold release, UV absorbent, antistatic, and toned. Workman, and Joseph Byrne, VP sales and marketing at PCC told PlasticsToday that their company expects the most immediate interest to come in the impact modified and toned offerings. For the former, the material has been compounded with functional additives to boost flexibility and eliminate brittleness. In the latter, toners have been added to eliminate or mask unwanted resin colors.
The additives used are not themselves biobased, but Workman noted, "that's the balance you have to strike with PLA so that it's truly functional." The amount functional additive compounded in varies by the process. In the case of the impact-modified grade, the additive represents 2-10% of the finished product, with film grades having less.
The goal is to allow PLA's biobased appeal to be equaled by its performance in the field. "There are a lot of good reasons to use PLA," Workman said, "but there are also a lot of reasons not to use it." This is the second-generation of PLA compounds from PCC, with some commercial products utilizing the new compound already on the market.
In May of last year, PCC opened its fourth plant, inaugurating a 30,000-ft2 square-foot Sun Valley, CA. That facility initially employed 14. Byrne said that at this time the facility has two twin-screw extruders in place for a total annual capacity of 4 million lb. Since 2007, PCC has marketed a line of masterbatch additive with impact modifier for PLA.